Thousands of low-paid workers are in line for a pay rise, with the North-East’s biggest council poised to introduce a “local living wage”.
Labour-led Durham County Council is expected to adopt a minimum wage of £7.43 an hour next month (December) – meaning more than 2,500 of the lowest paid workers, including cleaners, catering staff and lollipop men and women, could get a pay rise of up to £1,000 a year from January 1.
The raise is still below the national Living Wage of £7.85, but would cost the cash-strapped authority more than £1m a year.
Councillor Alan Napier, the council’s deputy leader, said the scheme was a fair, affordable and sustainable way of introducing a realistic and deliverable living wage.
“We believe its introduction would not only make a significant difference to the lives of our lowest paid employees but would also have knock-on benefits for the authority and wider county,” he added.
Howard Pink, from Unison, said it was a step in the right direction.
“Local government is the worst paid of the public service sectors and it’s really important to address this issue. The vast majority of people to benefit will be women,” he added.
The council has been considering adopting the living wage for at least two years.
Liberal Democrat Mark Wilkes, whose attempt to force it through by the spring was defeated in July, said: “I’m delighted. A well paid workforce returns the investment in them many times over. We will continue to push for our lowest paid workers to get a fair deal.”
No North-East council has yet adopted the official Living Wage.
Newcastle, Northumberland, North and South Tyneside and Northumberland are working towards increasing their lowest pay levels and Scarborough adopted a minimum wage of £7.45 last November. Sunderland is committed to becoming a Living Wage employer by April.
Durham cannot force its will on schools, where the majority of the lowest paid work, as their pay is controlled by governors.
But Mr Pink said: “If schools are reluctant to bring it in, we will want to discuss that with them.”
The proposals will be debated at a full council meeting on Wednesday, December 3, at Durham’s County Hall.
Source – Durham Times, 19 Nov 2014